Neil Gaiman, The Brooklyn Public Library, and Old Game Consoles

Image result for neil gaiman
Neil Gaiman

The person is Neil Gaiman. My favorite author going back almost a decade and a half, someone who wrote (and still writes) fiction that felt truer than life to me. He showed me the importance of stories, how they shape us and the world around us. He writes for both children and adults, so there was a feeling of him growing up with me (even though I was reading his books out of order of publication). I have always been a sucker for thematic cohesion, and his books had themes that appealed to me when I was young and continue to appeal to me today. Things like the importance of stories, finding truth when things seem dark, and the idea that even when things seem hopeless there is always something that can be done. Cleverness, compassion and luck seemed to be the three traits one needed to succeed in Gaiman’s world, and those were the traits I aspired to. When I knew little of him as a person and only knew him as an author, I still felt a connection, which proved to be a good instinct. I learned that Gaiman is an advocate for truth and the accessibility of information, he championed libraries in a way that resonated with me, a young woman who spent more time in a library than almost any other place.  While I was reading a recent collection of his nonfiction writing, The View from the Cheap Seats, I realized just how much his writing had shaped my mindset and how much that meant to me. Even the way I write tends to be influenced by him, with many parenthetical asides (though one could cite Lewis’s influence on him becoming his influence on me for that) and a strong voice that may sometimes border on rambling being associated with him as a narrator, as well as being hallmarks of my own writing, though I have much less honed skill than Mr. Gaiman does. His use of language and clear love of words is what drew me to him all those years ago, and what keeps me coming back to him. To this day, if he releases a new book or even recommends one, it immediately goes to the top of my To Read Next list, and his books are among the first I recommend to people who are looking for something a little unusual.

Image result for kings highway brooklyn public library
The Entrance of the King’s Highway Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library

The place is always the Brooklyn Public library. Generally, it’s the King’s Highway branch but I’m not exclusive. I’m sure that it’s not a shock that someone whose goal is to be a librarian is choosing the library, but it was the place I grew into my own. I have been a part of the BPL system as a patron for the majority of my life, and living walking distance from a branch gave me much needed space in my angsty tween to teen years. I attended children’s shows there when I was very young, brought myself to poetry clubs and craft clubs when I was older, and on the days in between I stayed comfortably at a table between the YA and Graphic Novel section. I settled into a rhythm of arriving home, having a snack of some sort, and heading to the library until it closed every day after school from 7th-12th grade. Summers it was common for me to spend the whole day there several days in a row. Some of this was because we had no internet at my house until May of this year (2019), but even now, when I need to spend time working on homework and not getting distracted by my cats or chores that somehow get more appealing when I sit down to work on assignments, I pack up my backpack with my laptop and a pair of headphones and trek the three blocks to get some focus. It would be hard to overstate how much the Brooklyn Public Library shaped me growing up. When I had very little disposable income, I didn’t have to spend it on books, those were accessible to me for free (the benefit of going to the library almost every day is that it is very hard to end up with high late fees). I was able to experiment with the books I wanted to read without any financial investment, so there was no shame if I did not finish a book. This, I think, is the main strength of a library to help people become readers. There is no up front cost, there is no monetary risk or expectation, there are just stories here that want you to find them and people here who want to help you look. These long days spent wandering shelves, asking librarians questions (generally questions of what to read next) and learning how to share space for long periods of time with many people are what made me consider a career in libraries. It started as a desire just to want to be around books, but it became more than that. People refer to the library as a sacred space, but I disagree. It is the place where we are the most human, the most communal. The unique way that the library fosters both solitude (in allowing for a space where focused work to get done or self discovery to take place) and community (a shared space where everyone’s needs must be navigated) is what draws me to them now, and what inspires me to be a part of that space as a librarian.

Image result for game cube
A black Nintendo GameCube, released in Japan and North America in 2001

My thing is a little more abstract, old game consoles. In my who, I talked about the importance of stories to me, and I found those stories not just in books but in video games as well. The stories in games are often well crafted and told beautifully with art, music, and interactive elements highlighting their plots, characters, and themes. I was lucky enough to either receive or save up to buy many consoles through my life, and I’ve held on to all of them and have worked hard to keep them in working condition. Why? Well, games are a quickly evolving medium. Console generations last about 7 years on average, and when a company shifts to a new console hundreds of games get left behind. If you get rid of your old console, all those games become unplayable unless the company decided to reboot or remaster them. This was what caused my first realization that conservation of art is not guaranteed. Games could be considered classics and yet still be left unplayable for the rest of time, and unlike other media like books or films, the vast majority of games would suffer this fate. Some people (I sometimes like to refer to them as unlicensed game archivists) created emulators and ways for the games to be made playable on computers so that they can be accessed by those who don’t have these old consoles, but those are often shut down by game companies who worry that these will cannibalize their profits. Until there is a better solution to all of this, I will just have to hold onto my old consoles (though even those are slowly becoming technologically obsolete due to a move to HD televisions). They are like small time machines or even tiny archives of their own, and those that own them are small scale archivists for themselves, deciding what games from the past they wanted to be able to pull out one day to play and refer to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *